Attending high school in the early 1970s in Anchorage, Alaska, I joined the East High School choir because I wasn’t good enough for much else in terms of extra-curricular activities. I just barely qualified to sing with the baritones. I was never really part of the choir socially, but they let me sing with them. I gained more than I gave, for sure.
We had a festival my junior year, hosted by the big rival across town, West High. Not that rivalry mattered much to us, but the school had more money, thus better facilities. The festival had us present our best and we were scored in some fashion I hardly remember, but it was vaguely competitive among a half-dozen area schools. The supposed highlight was a training session from a real serious conductor. He taught us to sing a few numbers as a massed choir. I remember two things — (1) the kids mostly reacted with mass resentment, and (2) one of the songs had an ending which stuck in my head.
After all these years, I decided to look up the lyrics and see if I could identify the piece. The lyrics were the poem by Thomas Hornsby Ferril, No Mark. The music was by Cecil Effinger, one of his “Four Pastorals” by the same name as the poem. I recalled the part at the end:
O swing away, white gull, white gull,
Evening star, be beautiful.
I can still sing it.
The sad part of all this is it was all I remembered. I never understood the reference to Chancellorsville, though I seem to recall the guest conductor told us something about the song. As far as I know, I was so deeply wrapped in my own little world, I paid no attention. And I was one of those who resented him, anyway. I remember the antipathy we all had for each other, too, it seems. I suppose being smart-aleck brats then is hardly different from today. I was just one of them, but with only half their talent, so I didn’t say much.
When I see a world falling down around me ears, I know somewhere along the way some of that mess bears my finger prints. I see it now, of course, and weep. I’m still out of place, fitting in no where, with no particular crowd I have encountered. Utterly without any sense of superiority, I see the same crazy headlong rush to ruin which has characterized the US since it began, at places like Chancellorsville. Everyone around me it seems is in on that resentment — things just don’t go the way they should, but no one’s really paying attention to the beauty of things which could be.
I missed the window, and I see it now too late. Most of the world sees about as well as I did then, all wrapped within themselves. They don’t have 40 years to escape.
We don’t have “health care” in the US; not really. What we have is a tightly controlled delivery system for pharmaceutical companies for the sake of unconscionable profits which help to destroy our economy. Yes, we can blame the mortgage bubble, and the commercial real estate bubble, but there are a few other bubbles which constitute the same fraud where someone in private business gets government to hold a gun to our heads and force us to pay them.
While I don’t agree with the notion we can fix government and make it behave, and especially can we not use government to make others behave — unless we wipe it all away and start from scratch — I heartily recommend this review of the situation from Alternet. This summarizes neatly the pervasive nature of influence buying by Big Pharma. The various major pharmaceutical firms compete only in who gets to stake out the turf first on a particular drug. Otherwise, they collude on price fixing and regulation buying, along with perverting the entire medical field so it’s just a delivery mechanism for their products.
Yes, a few doctors remain who care and actually practice medicine as the high art it should be. Good luck finding them. That business of 100K deaths per year is not just made up, either. There have been several studies pointing this out, and links can be found in the comments attached to the article at Alternet.
I still had my old XP license, so I installed it on my spare hard drive. The reason I care at all is, as everyone knows, drivers. Linux drivers for some things are just great, but even HP can’t create a proper HPLIP driver for CUPS which prints as nicely as it does in Windows. Having tried it repeatedly with different distros of Linux, it always prints a little too low on the page, and I can’t find any way to adjust that. Then there’s that business with the on-board Intel-HDA sound chipset which always clicks and pops under Linux, and not a one of the various manual adjustments works to fix the jack sensing so plugging in my headphones kills the speakers. And on and on it goes. After awhile it just gets tiresome.
So I reinstalled XP and all is dandy, except I was still jonesing for the CLI tools in Unixland. Thank God for GnuWin32. For my personal use, it was enough to grab the basic core utilities, along with units, and the file command to ID stuff in my browser cache. These are the things I use most.
In a similar vein, after my discussion on grabbing videos from your browser cache, playing with the Firefox add-on which downloads and converts media files, the author wanted money for some of the critical features. I have no problem with that, but I also have no money. Besides, that constantly animated icon on the mainbar at the top of Firefox drove me nuts. So I went and found this wonderful page on ffmpeg and related tools for Windows. There are several GUI frontends for it, and you’ll have to make up your own mind. I am prepared to do it on the CLI, so converting FLVs to MP4 or stripping the audio file down to MP3 is pretty easy to do, once you find a decent recipe. However, just for fun, I decided to test the one labeled Super from eRightSoft. It comes bundled with a reasonably recent copy of the ffmpeg backend, and appears to work well enough.
As you might expect, I’m also using Cream/Gvim for Windows — yes, I actually use Gvim quite a bit without the Cream — and other nifty things like Really Slick Screensavers, PuTTy, and stuff like that. Naturally, you gotta have that AV package, and I keep a homesite license to Sunbelt VIPRE because I can scrape up just enough every year to renew it. That way I can run it on as many Win-boxes as I have in my immediate family.
For quite some years I have been a fan of PySol. If any particular Linux distro dropped it, I dropped that distro. Eventually it seemed to have disappeared. But no, it was rescued by it’s own fan club, so to speak.
You can download it again, and it’s better than ever. All it really takes on Linux/BSD is a recent developer version of Python. On Windows, all it takes is downloading and installing. Best of all the Windows version comes with some peaceful background music.
There are more card games in this package than you are likely to ever play. What are you waiting for?
“Don’t Taze My Granny!” shows even some sleepy places like El Reno can offer the most unspeakable stupidity among uniformed officers. Granted, it’s possible this article exaggerates things, but I rather doubt that. Cops are becoming the greatest danger to average citizens everywhere. Who needs terrorists when we have state thugs in uniform?
Not only do I lack the expertise, but I am not in a position to get it. But I deeply respect those who are willing to name names and shame the guilty in public. KnujOn (that’s “No Junk” backwards) is an anti-spam group seeking to raise the bar of self-policing on the Internet. After an exhaustive review of registrars, they report just which ones [PDF] are protecting their criminal clients, making themselves knowing accessories to crime.
I haven’t had a chance to plow through it, and frankly I would not recognize most of the names. What I found missing is how ICANN is too darned lazy to do their job and enforce their own policies. Even an act of Congress won’t fix it. All this does if ensure we allow the Nanny State just one more excuse for taking over the Internet — or at least trying.
Thanks to Sunbelt Blog, who bring you VIPRE Anti-Virus (which I recommend highly), for pointing out this fine report.
I’m poor. It’s popular to say that, but I could show you the numbers indicating my household income is just above the point where I qualify for food stamps. We have been pretty much exempt from state and federal taxes for quite a few years based on our low income. That’s the facts.
It’s not a complaint.
It is the sum total consequences of choices we have made, and we have no regrets in that sense. As a Christian Mystic I place material possessions far, far down the scale of priorities. Tweak of few circumstances and I might be wealthy, but those tweaks are not in my reach.
Sure, I could, in theory, choose to do things which would make for a much better income. Those choices would come at a high cost spiritually, though. Nothing about this makes poverty or any other suffering particularly holy and righteous. Suffering and sorrow are the default for human existence in this world. Sometimes you escape it in ways and places, and for various durations, but sorrow is the norm. Suffering is the legitimate condition of fallen humanity, and the only virtue attached to it is our response. My response has been granting God the things He demands of me, and that includes all those things, so far, which would raise my income.
So you say you serve Him, too, and no such poverty strikes your home? How nice. Bless His Name. We are all appointed for different things, and your appointments could well include material prosperity. I won’t argue against that, of course. I have other blessings for which I would not trade all your wealth and a lot more beside that. Sure, I would be glad for more stuff, but not at the cost of changing certain things I have voluntarily resigned to God. There was a time when I was willing to compromise, but no more. I can’t afford to it now. But I have no complaint nor envy for your prosperity.
My wife isn’t a writer, so you’ll have to take my word for it: She knows beyond all doubt the only way she’ll see more wealth is to leave me. Again, that is the situation for now, and has been quite some time. Now, that would be a gamble, of course, since it might make things worse for her, but that’s not the point. I’m not being a hard-head and making her suffer. Were she to want me gone, I would pack a bag right now. There are no chains on her. There most certainly are serious restrictions on my soul. At the cost of even worse suffering, I would not change course. Could not, if you will. This she knows, and chooses to remain in the covenant. I can’t say how glad I am of that, having just passed our 32nd anniversary.
So I don’t even claim to be particularly noble about this, because I’ve learned to fear the other options. They hurt in ways mere poverty could not. I would be dead by now, I assure you, had things gone different. Not that I fear for my life much, but it would do little to bless my family if I were to commit suicide, and that would certainly have been the result had I taken a different route. I came too close to it, as it was. No, I’m a chicken. Pain hurts me. Frankly, this is the path of least resistance, if you will.
On the other hand, the certitude with which I operate is greater than the existence of the universe itself. That is what Christian Mysticism is all about, and poverty is just a circumstance, as is death and a lot of other things. The Realm of the Spirit is more real than reality.